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South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures
South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures

2.1 Considering All the Options

This chapter was added in October 2014 and is used with the kind permission of Devon Children’s Services.


  1. Introduction
  2. The Value of Considering All the Options

1. Introduction

This guidance is based on the premise that children and young people should be cared for by either their parents or extended family if at all possible and that the social work task is to support families to enable them to provide good care for their children. However, there will be times when families are not able to continue to care for their children even with the full support of agencies and the children will need to be provided with alternative care for either a short or longer period of time.

A full assessment of the family situation must be completed as a prelude to considering all the options that may be available to the child and/or to the family, including using a Family Group Conference when a child/young person cannot remain at home. The key issue to consider is whether the assessment indicates that support to the family will lead to a better outcome for the child or children.

2. The Value of Considering All the Options

The value of considering all the options for the child is that interventions can be considered in terms of least disruption and maximum improvement in the child’s circumstances so that, for example, thinking can proceed from remaining within the family with a minimum of professional support (perhaps from the school or health visitor) through to removal from the home to placement with other family members or in the most serious cases with carers.

In order that all the options can be considered and evidenced for the child, family and professional colleagues the Social Worker will need to:

  • Formally reflect on the assessed needs of the individual child and family, setting out in writing their views about the needs of the child and/or the family and the reasons for holding these views;
  • Consider the effectiveness of the diversionary practice to date (if any) and their assessment of the family's capacity to change;
  • Consider the child’s views regarding their family and home and what they think will make things better;
  • Consider whether there are strengths within the family or other networks that could, with more directed support, maintain the child at home;
  • Consider whether other agencies could intervene in ways that would improve the child’s circumstances e.g. school to offer breakfast club, child to attend clubs/activities, mother and toddler groups. Perhaps some combination of these interventions might make the difference;
  • Consider extended family and friends who could care for the child either informally, as foster carers or as private foster carers. Consider also the status of any of these placements, and support needs;
  • If there are no alternatives, to make a recommendation regarding the need to provide alternative care for the child.

The only exception will be:

  • The child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm;
  • The risk cannot be contained until a formal planning meeting can be arranged;
  • Without the LA making a plan to look after the child emergency legal proceeding would be required.

Even under these circumstances the LA should consider the following alternative to removing the child to accommodation.

  • Supporting the temporary absence from home of adults who may pose a risk to the child;
  • The use of a formal agreement regarding safe care;
  • Supporting the family to make alternative arrangements for the safe care of the child.

A planning meeting will be chaired by the Team Manager or a colleague if there are reasons to require an independent view of the child's needs.

The meeting should be attended by:

  • The assessing social worker holding the case;
  • The child or advocate, depending on the age of the child;
  • The parent or those with Parental Responsibility;
  • A representative of the family support services;
  • Any other professional relevant to the child.

The LA will only Accommodate children/young person when there is a clear purpose in doing so and the meeting will undertake an analysis of the advantages/disadvantage of caring for a child based on their assessed needs and the ability of the parents/carers and wider family to meet those needs. A Family Group Conference should be actively considered as part of this process. If a FGC is not deemed to be appropriate and the child is to be accommodated without a referral for a FGC being made, then the reasons for this need to be clearly recorded as part of the process.

The meeting should be chaired by the Team manager for the case, and minuted. 

Outcome of the meeting:

  • Child can be supported at home;
  • Child will move to family/friends short term under agreed arrangement with those with parental responsibility;
  • Child needs to be looked after under s20;
  • Child needs to be removed from home under legal order.

Meeting will be recorded on Child in Need review form.

This will be sent to family as per all reviews. Ideally it will be hand delivered.

After planning meeting held, if decision is to accommodate the child, process for placement /immediate placement to be followed.